Jupiter’s Moon, 2017.
Directed by Kornél Mundruczó.
Starring: Zsombor Jéger, Merab Ninidze, György Cserhalmi, and Móni Balsai.
A Syrian refugee is fatally shot as he crosses the border into Hungary. However, he magically heals and rises from the dead, with the added ability of flying. His presence in the country prompts a manhunt but he also earns the unwavering support of a rogue doctor.
Europe’s refugee crisis is given the supernatural treatment in Jupiter’s Moon, a heavy-handed and messy Palme d’Or contender by director Kornél Mundruczó.
The opening card states that Jupiter has 67 moons but only one, Europa, might be capable of supporting life due to its geographical features. Straight away Mundruczó’s mixes his metaphors. Since the film has absolutely nothing to do with outer space or satellites, is this simply an interesting astronomy fact? Or is he implying, rather clunkily, that the European continent appears promising but is actually devoid of humanity? Because after 123 minutes, Jupiter’s Moon remains confused about what message it wants to hammer home.
Aryan (Zsombor Jéger) and his father, fleeing Homs in Syria, cross into Hungary – presumably from the Balkans – in the middle of the night along with dozens of others. They are soon separated and pursued by the police deep in a forest. Aryan is then gunned down by a trigger-happy officer named Lászlo (György Cserhalmi). Though he should be dead, droplets of blood emerge from his chest wound and float up as Aryan’s unconscious body slowly levitates above the chaos below.
While in a refugee camp, Aryan’s metaphysical power is noticed by a disgraced medic, Stern (Merab Ninidze), who is simultaneously heartened by what he sees and also recognises an opportunity to exploit this ‘angel’ in his efforts to con patients for extra cash. Aryan, perhaps just naive or intuiting some goodness in Stern’s character, agrees to aid the doctor in return for help in finding his missing father.
Both men connect on a personal level – Aryan fully trusts his Hungarian guardian and Stern confesses his past misdeeds to the young foreigner, apparently as a sort of spiritual awakening. Still, their relationship is strange and stilted and becomes weirder when the authorities in Budapest, led by Lászlo, launch a major investigation to put Aryan behind bars – or a bullet in his head. The pair embark on a fugitive-on-the-run adventure, complete with car chases and shoot outs.
Jupiter’s Moon is wildly ambitious – Mundruczó wants to tackle European border controls, prejudice and xenophobia, corrupt institutions, guilt and redemption, and the mystical, all under the guise of a dramatic thriller. These are timely issues, however, even a veteran director would struggle to package those concepts into a compelling cinematic feature. On top of that, the special effects – which are initially intriguing – begin to act as gimmicks to distract from the lack of coherent plot. The resulting film is ponderous, muddled and frequently boring.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★